The Call of Limocon
By Danny C. Sillada
When the limocon hoots that morning, Misak, a Mandaya warrior, did not heed to its call; instead, he was obstinate to continue his strenuous journey through the thick forests of Compostela Valley, the neighboring region of eastern Davao, part of the major island of southern Philippines in Mindanao.
“Ayao sa cay itin magpanao”, said the mother of Misak persuading him not to go because of an impending danger ahead of him as forewarned by the limocon.
“Way tuo-tuo doon, kung yang kanak Madayao mawã lamang na way dugo na modanak…” a stubborn response of Misak to his mother saying that the omen is meaningless if his beloved Madayao was on the verge of being taken away; only death could stop him from protecting his Mandaya princess from his fierce rival named Kalele.
The limocon, known as the bird of omen, plays a vital role in shaping the lives and beliefs of the native Mandaya. It could foretell danger with its short rhythmic, repetitive sound that diminishes slowly and then followed by the same resonance. When it hoots in front of the person, an impending danger is waiting ahead. If the hoot is coming from the right, the person is in danger of being attacked by the enemies; however, if it hoots from the left, it is a good omen.
Misak, known as the fiercest bagani (Mandaya warrior) in his village was defiant of the warning, as he arrogantly thought that he is the master of his life – the master of all his adventures and journeys.
Anxious of Misak’s stubborn quest, his grandmother named Mal-an, the baylana or high priestess of the village, performed the panawagtawag ritual in order to drive away the busaw (evil spirit) in the course of the bagani’s passage through the forests and rivers. She beheaded three white chickens and sprinkled the blood toward the direction of Misak’s trail leading to the Compostela Valley.
"Lumapos kaw; ya tapos kaw; di kaw mauno…" (You will succeed; you will finish; nothing bad will happen to you.), chanted Mal-an as she performed the panawagtawag dance with the native villagers taking part in the ritual.
Despite his betrothal to Madayao, a Mandaya princess and daughter of Chieftain Bagusa of the Kamay-an tribe, Misak had a sinister plan that was incubated by his extreme jealousy over Kalele, a rival bagani and son of Chieftain Lumanig of the Compostela tribe. His animosity toward Kalele was heightened when the latter continued to woo his princess despite their anticipated marriage on the sixth full moon of the year. And, this time, Misak is going to hunt Kalele the traditional way and plan to parade his cut off head in the La Fortuna village.
Head-hunting was already forbidden since in the 1960s among the tribal villages in the eastern region of Davao, but Misak continued to flout the new Mandaya law, which he thought was influenced by the American Maryknoll missionaries, who Christianized his village in the late 1950s. However, despite his hidden enmity, he still maintained his respect for the Americans, as he thought that the white skinned missionaries were descendants of the Mandaya good gods, the father and son named Mansilatan and Badla.
Meanwhile, after a day and a half travel through the mountains and rivers of La Fortuna, Misak finally arrived at the border, a plateau where the Kamay-an village is located, flanked by the two tribal territories, the La Fortuna Mountain and the Compostela Valley.
From a distance, Misak could see the cluster of nipa houses billowing with smoke, a sign of an impending festivity and tribal ritual in the evening. His blood suddenly surged when he saw the batos (guard) of Kalele sauntering around the Kamay-an village; he was convinced that his rival won’t stop pursuing his beloved’s heart.
That evening, the Kamay-an tribe prepared a small festivity with bayok  ritual for their guests Chieftain Lumanig, his son and the baganis from the Compostela tribe. The bayok (antiphonal hymns) is a customary Mandaya practice, which is usually held at night. Both the guests and the hosts would sing their journeys and life experiences amid the bonfire, and they would take their turn in the ritual either by singing or by chanting their respective stories.
However, in the middle of the ritual, the raging Misak in a trance-like state suddenly emerged, waving and flailing his kampilan, and tried to seize Kalele by his neck. But the baganis of the Compostela tribe were quick to respond, held Misak behind his back and took the sword from his hand. The unexpected presence of Misak stunned Madayao, and before the princess could speak up a single word, Kalele, who was clutching his kayam, instantaneously plunged the metal spear like a flash of lightning into the stomach of Misak.
Everyone in the village was horrified when they saw the scarlet blood oozing from the La Fortuna warrior and then, the bagani steadily crumbled on the ground wheezing with hollowed breathe. Fretful and frightened, the Mandaya princess dashed off to the side of her fallen Misak, her tears dripping copiously on his ebbing face, their eyes met as though their hearts were tearing into pieces.
Deafening silence followed!
And then, little by little, amid the petrified faces of the villagers, rose the gripping song of despair by the princess: “Sayod kaw, na ikaw lamang yang kanak kinabuhi, Kung ikaw mopanao, wâ day kapuslanan na ako mabuhi…” (“You know that you are the only meaning of my life, but now that you are leaving, I have no more reason to live…” )
Her frail arms wrapped around the flaccid body of Misak; the lament of her bayok continued until the breathing of her beloved warrior converged with the tranquil resonance of the night…
Then, in an instance, the princess took the kayam from the stomach of Misak and plunged the spear deeply into her heart!
The fifth full moon had just ascended from the silhouettes of nebulous clouds; the song of the limocon echoed once again from the mountains and rivers of the Kamay-an village.